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GRIMPEURS DU SUD

Wheel of Fortune If you reckon there’s no good climbing in southeast England, the Grimpeurs du Sud rides might make you think again Words & photography by Martin Malins

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estling under the South Downs with a steep hill either side is the charming hamlet of Catherington. There is a wheel on the village sign which represents the treadwheel which stood in the village until very recently when the whole wheel and wheelhouse was relocated to the excellent Weald and Downland Open Air Museum nearby in Singleton. Twice a year this sleepy place becomes a hive of Audax activity thanks to the sterling efforts of Jonathan Stainton Ellis and his willing band of helpers. The area holds a special appeal to me as it’s where I did some of my first AUK rides when they were organised by Pam Pilbeam. Being the other side of the Downs they guarantee superb views from the top and also provide a gentle introduction to AAA rides, being just over threshold at 1500m ascent (and therefore qualifying also for Grimpeurs du Sud). The 100km rides have changed names a few times and are now known as Le Bois Ocaude; one in spring and one in autumn. The spring ride starts with a steady climb up to Harting Hill before rolling up and down, with a backdrop of the Downs through beautifully quiet lanes to Lasham. There is a choice of controls here. The garden centre café offers big breakfasts but also sadly bigger queues, so I find the nearby local airfield much

nicer. As well as gliders there are also many other types of aircraft including vintage jet airliners, and when I did the ride this March I was treated to the awesome and deafening take-off of one of the few remaining airworthy Boeing 727s. Then it’s back to more quiet rolling lanes, where the vintage transport theme continues as you pass over the Watercress Line with its steam engines working hard to pull trains up the steep gradients. Then two more ascents of the South Downs either side of the sleepy Meon Valley, neither is excessively steep and the second offers the best view of the whole ride at Old Winchester Hill. On a clear day you can see right up to Box Hill and also the Isle of Wight. The last little kick takes you back to the finish where a superb spread of sandwiches and cakes awaits. This is especially welcome on an ECE to provide fuel for the return leg! The autumn version goes to Whitchurch, taking a completely different outward route to the spring ride, but still featuring the ascents of the Downs an passing through pretty, sleepy, little villages such as Stoke Charity and Cheriton. The finish over Old Winchester Hill is always a welcome sight. Keep an eye out for these rides in the calendar – you will not be disappointed.

EVENTS Le Bois Ocaude de Printemps 100 / Le Bois Ocaude d’Automne 100 DATE 19th March 2016 / 12th November 2016 DISTANCE 105km (AAA 1.5) / 106km (AAA 1.5) LOCATION Catherington, nr Portsmouth ORGANISER Jonathan Ellis, Hantspool CC

Stuart Low on Old Winchester Hill

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Arrivée Summer 2016 • No.133

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Arrivée 133 - Summer 2016  

Arrivée is the free magazine of Audax United Kingdom, the long distance cyclists’ association, which represents the Randonneurs Mondiaux in...

Arrivée 133 - Summer 2016  

Arrivée is the free magazine of Audax United Kingdom, the long distance cyclists’ association, which represents the Randonneurs Mondiaux in...

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